Andy Warhol’s Ghostlike Presence In An American Family

Andy Warhol’s Ghostlike Presence In An American Family

Andy Warhol did not appear in television’s first weekly reality series, An American Family, but he was a looming influence behind the scenes. Shot in 1971, the PBS show premiered on January 11, 1973, and became an immediate pop culture sensation. It was discussed by newspaper columnists, debated by television pundits, and taken seriously by respected scholars such as Margaret Mead. In a TV Guide article, the anthropologist declared that the show was “as new and significant as the invention of drama or the novel—a new way in which people can learn to look at life, by seeing the real life of others interpreted by the camera.” Though An American Family primarily took place in the Loud family home in Santa Barbara, California, several key moments were filmed in New York—exposing the likes of Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn to millions. It also introduced audiences to the first openly gay man on television, Lance Loud, who had already forged links with the downtown underground in the mid-1960s. After he saw a Time magazine article about Warhol and Factory superstar Edie Sedgwick at the age of thirteen, Loud dyed his hair silver. He even struck up a long-distance friendship with Warhol—via mail and, eventually, telephone—but the letters and late-night phone calls abruptly ended after Warhol was shot in 1968. “I tried to write him, but the letters came back,” Loud said. “He suddenly became very, very private. He got very scared after that for a long time.”

From Chapter 23 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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